This Halloween I thought it would be fun to make a prop from one of my all-time favorite horror franchises, Friday the 13th. Even though Jason used a wide variety of weapons to slay teens, his machete is iconic. My goal was to make mine as realistic as possible without being as lethal as Jason’s! And I wanted to just make a fun video.
The biggest challenge in making a machete out of wood is making the thin blade strong. I decided my best option was to use hard maple, which is extremely sturdy and its tight, light colored grain makes painting easy. Plus, the density of maple gives it a good weight; it feels more like a steel weapon than pine, for instance.
Special supplies I used for this project:
I started this project with a cutting template. (Download PDF) I designed this so that the whole machete fits onto one sheet of paper. Just cut out the three pieces. I’ve included overlap on each piece. Use the cross hair registration marks to help you line them up. I like to hold them up to the light against a window and tape them together.
Next, attach the long machete template to a board using spray adhesive. My board was a perfect width for making two at once.
I cut out the basic shape using my bandsaw.
For realism, the blade needs to be thin. A thick blade spoils the illusion and looks like a toy. I made mine about 1/8″ (3mm) thick. To do this, I ran the machete on its edge along the rip fence of my tablesaw. (My bandsaw is old and can’t make long straight cuts. Plus it would require a lot of sanding.)
I installed a zero-clearance insert in the table and used a featherboard to help keep pressure on the work piece as I fed it through the saw. I used a push stick to control the leading edge of the board as it passed through the blade. This reduces the likelihood of kickback. This is sort of an advanced technique. If you feel the least bit unsafe, use a different method. In fact, it would be easier to make this cut first, before cutting out the machete shape, while the board is still square.
Stop feeding the board through the blade when it gets near the handle of the machete. Since the saw blade is round, the cut will go further on the side against the table. Turn off the saw, wait for the blade to stop, and remove the board. Flip it around and repeat this rip cut on the other side, stopping at the handle.
Next, cut the remainder of the machete blade (the part that the circular saw blade couldn’t reach) using the bandsaw. Then remove the two sides of the board, revealing the machete’s blade.
Sand and shape the blade using whatever sanders you have. I like to use a disc sander for outside curves and a spindle sander for inside curves.
I rounded over the handle using a roundover bit on my router.
I used my random orbit sander to shape the blade’s bevel. I was surprised how sharp I could hone the edge!
I spray painted the machete’s blade using Rust-Oleum Dark Bronze Hammered Metal spray. I experimented with several of these metallic finishes and this one looked the best. Mostly, I didn’t want a shiny chrome or silver finish. I painted the handles dark brown, then sprayed a few blotches of black over that.
Here’s the thing about blood. It’s not a red as you want to think. In fact, the most realistic looking blood is mostly black. To mix up mine, I sprayed red paint into a puddle and then mixed in black. Don’t mix it thoroughly, leave some random streaks of color. Working quickly, I smeared it on the machete blade in swishes.
Finally, I painted a piece of duct tape black, ripped it into thin strips, and wrapped them around the handle.